This week's cover story, "The Secret Garden," examines the efforts of gardening and local-foods activists to develop a healthy living park on the site of a former elementary school in Alamosa -- a campaign thwarted a few months ago when the school board decided to sell the land to an RV resort developer for $500,000, a third less than the park people were offering. How that decision was made, and the uproar that followed, says volumes about clashing economic development ideas in the struggling San Luis Valley.
What is a healthy living park? The Alamosa version, which would have been developed around a thriving community garden next to the Rio Grande river, called for trails connecting the area to an existing park on the other side of the river; a botanic garden and area for live music; half-acre farm plots in the rich topsoil that could be used for feeding local families and teaching sustainable methods to aspiring farmers; a commercial kitchen for small-batch bakers and chefs; a farm-fresh restaurant and production greenhouse; and more. Think park, small business incubator, and farmer's market, all rolled into one.
Here's a rendering by a landscape architect that gives some idea of the many features involved; more information can be found on the Keep Polston Public website.
At this point backers of the park haven't decided if they are going to continue to pursue a court challenge to the sale -- which has provided them some information about how the deal went down, but not much hope of overturning the decision -- or simply look for another site. But it's significant that the group was able to raise more than $30,000 in a few weeks for the quixotic legal battle -- also raising some awkward questions about government transparency and community priorities in the process. Check out this fundraising video the group put together, which gives some history of the garden site and introduces several of the people involved in the campaign.
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More from our Environment archive: "New fracking regs: Will Hick's gas play allay locals' fears?"